IPCC report warns that health risks are intensified by climate change

3 March 2022

Climate change: a threat to human wellbeing and health of the planet – the time for action is now.

The scientific evidence is unequivocal. Climate change is a threat to human health / wellbeing & the health of the planet. 

The latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report confirms that urgent climate action is crucial to save Australian lives, said the Climate and Health Alliance at a local briefing, in response to the IPCC’s Sixth Assessment Report (AR6).(link is external)

“This report is a dire warning about the consequences of inaction,” said Hoesung Lee, Chair of the IPCC. “It shows that climate change is a grave and mounting threat to our wellbeing and a healthy planet. Our actions today will shape how people adapt and nature responds to increasing climate risks.”

The impacts are local – “For every day the Australian government delays on climate action, more people will get sick and more people will die,” says Ms Fiona Armstrong, Executive Director of CAHA, Australia’s peak body on climate and health.

Ms Armstrong said: “The report says Australia’s 1-in-100-year floods could occur several times a year. None of us can cope with back-to-back Brisbane floods.”

Climate change is a huge, accelerating public health crisis. Australia must make much deeper cuts to emissions this decade, alongside the rest of the world, in order to save lives, prevent suffering and promote good health.

“Australia’s health sector is calling for two things: a national plan on climate and health, and for substantial cuts in national emissions by 2030.”

The AR6 report outlines multiple significant climate-related health impacts for people in Australia:

  • In Australia, there will be 20-70% more days over 35°C by 2030, putting people at risk of heat-related illnesses;
  • In Australian cities, excess heat-related deaths could quadruple in 2031-2080 compared with 1971-2020;
  • Heatwaves almost twice as likely in Australia if temperature rise reaches 2.0°C compared to 1.5°C;
  • Australia’s “1-in-100 year floods” could occur several times a year;
  • The dependence of regional Australia on an “overstretched” volunteer base to respond to disasters makes it extremely vulnerable; and
  • Climate change will exacerbate the health inequities already faced by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples.

Ms Armstrong said, “CAHA has laid the groundwork for a national climate and health strategy already – the ideas are there for the taking in “Healthy, Regenerative and Just – a framework for a national strategy on climate, health and wellbeing(link is external).”

Our position:

At CHA we are seeing rising concern across the children’s healthcare sector about the health harms already being caused by climate change.  The previous IPCC report predicting a 4oC rise in global temperature this century heightened concern about the negative impacts of climate change on the health and wellbeing of today’s children & young people in their lifetimes – and the updated report reiterates the need for action .  

The health sector itself contributes an estimated 7% of Australia’s annual carbon emissions.  That’s why our member hospitals are taking concrete steps to reduce their own emissions significantly by 2030.  However, there is an urgent need for national leadership across the economy and society to make a meaningful difference.

In the lead up to the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26) in November, we urged the federal government to commit Australia to achieving net zero carbon emissions by 2050 if not sooner.  All sectors of government, economy, and society, the health sector included, can then work together to achieve this important goal for the benefit of our children.   

Additional background:

Amidst increasing evidence that global warming is having significant impact on our communities, CHA is committed to supporting member health services to share know-how, ideas and strategies to:

  • increase their use of renewable energy
  • source sustainably grown/manufactured food and other supplies
  • minimize waste generation & greenhouse emissions
  • recycle water

We have joined the Global Green & Healthy Hospitals(link is external)(link is external) network, which provides a wealth of resources to support interested health services to take measurable action to reduce their environmental footprint.  All member hospitals of WHA and CHA are encouraged to consider joining the GGHH is external)(link is external)(link is external)

CHA Green & Healthy Hospitals Hot Topic: We invite members to join the Green & Healthy Hospitals group on our members community.  Here you can share questions, ideas, comments and resources in this forum related to local efforts to make a difference. 

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